I’ve been thinking about how Scala Center does its fundraising. Right now, it feels like either you’re a big company and then you can throw a lot of money every year at the SC, becoming an advisory board member in exchange, or … well, that’s it. I remember there was some fundraising during Scala Days. I chipped in. I have no clue how much we got but I’m guessing it wasn’t a game-changer. However, since it was possible to organize it, perhaps the Scala Center would be open to the idea of creating Patreon and/or GitHub Sponsors accounts?
Over the past few years, Patreon has become the de-facto standard for supporting artists, YouTubers, podcasters, bloggers, journalists, indie video game developers, Linux distro maintainers, and so on. Everyone recognizes the name (you can read some statistics here: 17 Patreon Statistics You Need to Know) and the process of creating an account there and starting to support your favorite creator is as straightforward as it gets. You shout “Hey, I’m on Patreon!” and folks are like “Sweet, I’ll hop on and support!” – because they already know what it is about. .The two most important features are the low entry level and the fact that after they make a subscription, every month a small amount of money is sent from them to you automatically. It’s often just a few dollars or euros, so nobody minds, especially since they love and appreciate your work. And when you have a significant number of patrons, those few dollars accumulate into a substantial amount, sent to you monthly.
GitHub Sponsors follows a similar idea. I would suggest starting with Patreon though, as it’s much more popular. But you could consider both.
Since this hasn’t been implemented yet, I assume there might be obstacles I’m unaware of. However, if there are, could we be informed about them? Perhaps there’s a way to overcome them? Anyway, I firmly believe that establishing a Patreon account for the Scala Center is something we should at least discuss in-depth.
I think it is best to start both Patreon and GitHub Sponsors accounts to provide choice for donators making donation thresholds as low as possible.
I would never give even one penny to multi-billion dollar corporations like Microsoft (GitHub), or other for profits, while trying to support OpenSource software. That’s completely counterproductive.
Of course other people are free to spend their money on whatever they please. But instead of following just the next scamy fad (like Patreon) how about making some serous attempts to being a proper charitable non-profit? This means making it possible for donor to get their money back from taxes by getting declared a charitable organization officially across the most important economic regions.
As this is not so easy legally one could try cooperate with organizations like the SPI.
Being able to reclaim your donations from taxes would make it almost a no-brainer for a lot of organizations and people to contribute.
GitHub docs say:
GitHub Sponsors does not charge any fees for sponsorships from personal accounts, so 100% of these sponsorships go to the sponsored developer or organization. GitHub Sponsors charges a fee of up to 6% for sponsorships from organization accounts. The 6% fee is split between the following:
- 3% credit card processing fee
- 3% GitHub service processing fee
Organizations can save the 3% credit card processing fee by switching to invoiced billing for sponsorships. For more information, see “Paying for GitHub Sponsors by invoice.”
 About sponsorships, fees, and taxes - GitHub Docs
Becoming a non-profit may be good advice but it doesn’t address the question of how to make it easy for ordinary people to donate.
Anyway I don’t think it’s counter-productive. Microsoft is not killing open source.
off-topic, realtors used to take 6%, which is why it sounds like a scam.
I sympathize with the idea that one should not have to go through a billion-dollar mega company to support the people and products they love. On the other hand, we have to remember that the implementation of any idea has upfront and running costs. So a big part of maintaining an open source project is to properly allocate the time and good will of the people involved to pay for these costs and achieve the project’s mission.
My personal feeling is that setting up a Patreon and/or Github sponsorship looks like a more affordable task at the moment, with clearer prospects of ROI. I’m not even remotely convinced to be right.
Thank you, @makingthematrix, for bringing this up! And everyone for sharing your thoughts and experiences. We are about to start internal meetings to explore these avenues. I will update you on what we came up with.
Already, we think this could be a great complement to our current funding model. Please note that if we do open these options, we will continue to focus on ensuring that companies that use Scala are ensuring its sustainability and not relying on yet more support from the community. We started a blog post series on that topic, check it out: 1) Towards a responsible, sustainable, and resilient open source ecosystem for scala, 2) Goldman Sachs being the first interview in the series.
In the meantime, we’ve noticed open collective is quite popular and successful too, please help us by listing all the options we should look into.
Yeah, Typelevel currently operates using OpenCollective, and it seems to work pretty well – it’s an admirably transparent way of doing things, with a reasonably low level of hassle AFAIK.
On the topic of Patreon, I highly recomment the following video, which highlights the financial pressures acting on Patreon, and the possible impact they might have on its future:
(The title is much more alarmist than the content)
I had never heard of OpenCollective before, but it sounds like a cool option
There is of course an unfortunate link between popularity of the platform and the amount of money that can be raised on it, which needs to be investigated
(which I am not equipped to do, but I have no doubts the Scala Center is, and probably already doing)
Thanks for the comments, everyone. I’m really happy that Scala Center takes this form of crowdfunding into consideration. I talked to Darja today and I have a few action points. Like, two.
But one thing first. I really don’t want this to turn into a discussion about the perfect crowdfunding platform. There’s no such thing. I strongly suggest to stick to Patreon and GitHub Sponsors - the former is the most popular one, the latter is better targeted at people who could be motivated to sponsor Scala Center. I believe that between these two we can minimize the disadvantages of each one and so, while still not perfect, it’s probably the best available option.
That being said, I’m going to
- research more about Patreon, looking for issues that might actually be a big red flag for us.
- set up a Patreon account - an experimental one at first, and then later I will either give it over to Scala Center, or delete it and create a new one for SC - and play with the configuration, look at the fees, etc.
In two weeks I will tell you what I’ve learned
I agree that it’s not necessary to conduct an open-ended search for crowdfunding platforms. Considering a handful of popular options should be sufficient.
But I’m curious why you cut Open Collective from your list? For a specific reason, or just because you think only considering two options and not three is a substantial time savings? My impression is that Open Collective is pretty well established. Even just within the Scala world, it’s what both Typelevel and Play Framework use. See Open Collective - Make your community sustainable. Collect and spend money transparently., where Play is shown as having raised $230K from over 300 contributors.
I think that with Patreon and GitHub Sponsors we would have all the landscape pretty much covered. Adding one more platform wouldn’t bring new sponsors, but would just force the same people to consider one more option. And in this case I consider it to be a flaw. It adds noise to posts on social media about sponsoring Scala Center, and it’s more work to the administrator of those accounts.
Hmm… I was assuming that in the end only a single platform would be selected. It hadn’t occurred to me that the Center might accept donations on multiple platforms.
I’ve done a bit of research into Patreon’s problems and also how GitHub Sponsors work. It made me rethink my initial suggestion to prioritize Patreon more. I still think it would be valuable to set up a Patreon account, but now I’d say GitHub Sponsors is a more natural crowdfunding platform for Scala Center, and it’s easier to work with.
The way I understand it, Patreon is a typical Silicon Valley startup with all its flaws. Patreon had a few excellent years just after it launched. But instead of expecting the initial growth to slow down and plateau at some stable level, the owners started to believe the growth would be infinite. They found new investors when Patreon was already big, and the investors now expect it to grow even more. That motivated the owners to experiment with the fees model, and that led to criticism, so they retracted the changes, but now they try again.
Anyway, I believe that setting up a Patreon account means tapping into a niche that is considerably separate from GitHub. Many people who could be persuaded to sponsor Scala Center are not on GitHub for different reasons. Currently, Patreon takes a percentage of earnings from the creators - if you don’t earn, you don’t pay. I believe that if they don’t change that, we are on the safe side.
I talked about it with Darja. There are some issues that need to be solved before we can focus on this topic, but it looks like starting in January we can work on it further, and we feel positive about it.
Yep – as a heavy Patreon backer (including of some creators who watch this stuff very closely), that all sounds right.
Seriously, though – when the time comes, I do think it’s worth looking closely at Open Collective. It’s smaller and quieter, but some significant projects in our ecosystem run on it, and as far as I’m aware it works well and without drama. I back both Play and Typelevel that way…